Beauty In The Real World
Katsushika Hokusai, The suspension bridge on the border of Hida and Etchu Provinces, ca. 1830
Until recently, the real world wasn’t usually referred to as such – because it wasn’t referred to much at all. It used to be a given; now it’s just one of the options, something to dip into – perhaps for a packet of Soylent (or even Soylent). And to save time when referring to ‘out there’, we have developed the term ITRW, ‘In The Real World’. However, did we manage without it before? Very easily.
But reality is good for us. Shared reality, that is. The reality of encountering the same sun as everyone else, the same weather conditions, ocean, perfume, whatever. The reality that comes, directly and unadulterated, to all our five senses. (Or if mediated by culture, mediated by a culture with some depth.) Virtual reality? That’s just ‘nearly, but not quite…’
Our biology is hard-wired for beauty, reaching each of those senses. While there is some beauty to be found in digital art, in kitten videos too, the real beauty is out there ITRW. So how do we get what we need, the elegance and dynamism that our brains are built for?
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Simon Elias works in the beauty industry, as a mountain guide and crystal gatherer in the French Alps. His crystal gathering is all done in the traditional way, without the use of machinery. There is a link to a short video introducing him and his work at the bottom of this article.
Simon’s work combines assisting people encounter real-world beauty in two ways. As a guide, he helps holidaymakers immerse themselves in the grandeur of nature; as a crystal gatherer, he helps people add beauty to their everyday lives as well. Unsurprisingly, aesthetics are important to him, including his human-made possessions. Last year, Simon got himself a Punkt. mobile phone:
I have an MP 01 like I have a carbon fibre, handcrafted ice axe or an Italian-tailored jacket. I really like the design, its size and the sound of its ringtones and text alerts. I don´t own so many things but I like them to be well-made.
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Nature is tough, so being in nature is tough, too. Getting out into the wilderness, surviving, and getting back takes effort. Even a safari out to the local park is harder than simply scrolling one’s day away, sofa-style. Harder in the short term, at least; in the long term, if we don’t get enough real world there’s a hefty price to pay.
Safety has a great reputation, but get too much of it and it’s the end. A lot of what drives tech addiction is FOMO, Fear Of Missing Out. But if our fears are wiser, FOMO can in fact lure us away from the flat reality of phones, computers and goggles – if we fear missing out on the important things. Things like the ordered chaos of nature. Or the less pre-planned and sanitised experience of living for a while without a smartphone, with so much more space for being in the real world. It’s not all beautiful out there, but it’s where the greatest beauty is to be found.
You can watch Simon’s video here. And if you are interested in reviewing your tech-ITRW balance, perhaps going on a little safari, you might like to apply for Punkt.’s latest Digital Detox Challenge: 35 free MP 01 mobile phones available for selected participants.